Representatives of 32 Slovak companies last month received awards entitled "The Best Exporter 1997" from Premier Vladimír Mečiar at a ceremony in Bratislava's Hotel Forum.
Organized by the Economy Ministry's Trade Policy Department (SOP) in cooperation with the Fund for Supporting Foreign Trade, the competition was established in 1995 in order to promote Slovakia's export performance, said Anna Joštiaková, the head of SOP.
Joštiaková explained that the main criterion to be considered for the award was that the value added to company's exported production must represent a minimum of 20 percent of the product's final value. "Every company applying for the award had to fit [this] bill," she said.
Competitors were divided into five categories, according to the number of employees in their companies. Each category was made up of eight groups, according to export portfolio. In other words, the award could have been given to 40 companies. But out of 84 entries, only 32 were judged worthy, due to the wide range of other criteria that the ministry had established, such as the volume of exports, the share of exports on overall production or foreign trade turnover.
In 1995, when the competition was held for the first time, the ministry accepted 47 applications and awarded 24 companies. A year later, 38 enrolled and 25 were awarded.
Among the 32 awarded corporations were companies from all areas of Slovak industry: the Zvolen-based Bučina, a wood-processing concern which exported 40 percent of its production, oil refiner Slovnaft (a 51 percent share), or the Trenčín-based Ozeta, a clothing producer which sold an unbelievable 95 percent of its production abroad.
But the competition did not pander to corporate giants. For instance, VSŽ, whose exported production represents over ten percent of Slovakia's total exports, did not pick up an award. On the other hand, among the laureates was the Prešov-based Křižík, a maker of measuring and regulating appliances. Lat year, the company exported 70 percent of its production, worth 550 million Sk ($15.5 million).
Joštiaková explained that the award did not confer any heightened market status on the laureates. "This was just a moral reward to the companies, from which they will not have any further benefits," she said, but conceded that one tangible benefit might be promotion. "If a firm had a capable Public Relations Director, it could get some free promotion from this," she added.